Saturday, March 1, 2014

Archive Files: The Top Ten Lists, because The Oscars Are Tomorrow!

Before the Oscars, I will post my Top Ten of 2013.

After the (and for the first time ever, During the) Oscars you can read the latest My Thoughts As I Had Them During the Oscars Post, now powered by Twitter.

To see my thoughts as I actually have them, follow me on Twitter (@joshuatoulouse) or follow the hashtag #MTAIHTDTO (My Thoughts As I Had/Have Them During the Oscars)  (If you don't know what that is, you can read more about it here, including the first 5 years, and year 6 here.  I missed year 7, but realized I basically did it on twitter anyway, and isn't that what Twitter is for?  Thus the birth of the Hashtag (#MTAIHTDTO) and the live tweeting of the Oscars that I was doing before Twitter existed now continues via that medium!  And I will place them here afterwords as a blog post!  Everyone wins!)

If you want to join along, tweet with the hashtag (#MTAIHTDTO) and the best will become part of the blog along with a link to your twitter page!

But now it is time to take a trip back in time.  I have published Top Ten lists for each of the last seven years (and a Top 5 the year before that), so let's go back in time and take a look, shall we?  (Yes, yes, we shall.)

You can click on each of the subtitles to get to the post but here is a quick link to each of them if you want to check out the top tens that way

In 2005, shortly after starting my blog, I listed my Top 5 films of the previous year
In 2006, I did my first top ten (also the only time I wussed out and had a tie at the top)
In 2007
In 2008 (I also did a look back at the Top Ten films of 1999)
In 2009 I actually did a Top 20 since the Oscars went to 10 Best Picture Nominees
In 2010
In 2011
And Last years, time crunched/no review list, 2012

Of course, I also copied the important bits into this post (which is the whole idea of these Archive Files), so alternatively, you can just read through the rest of this post for the Top movies of each of the last 8 years!

Top 5 Films of 2005

Counting down, because it is ever so much more fun that way...
5. The Constant Gardener - from the director of City of God, Fernando Meirelles, adapted from the thriller by John LeCarre. This was a smart, thriller about a murder and corruption in the drug industry (the legal one), that entertained without being mind-numbing or requiring an imaginative stretch.

4. Capote - a narrative debut of a documentary filmmaker, Bennett Miller, it is a fascinating look inside the famed author of Breakfast at Tiffany's Truman Capote and at the same time contains an intriguing mystery. The mix of styles that Bennett Miller brings to the table along with the outstanding performances enhances the strong story making it often feel as though you're watching a documentary.

3. Syriana - written and directed by the screenwriter who wrote Traffic, and produced by George Clooney and Stephen Sodorberg (who directed Traffic), this is a film in the same vain as Traffic, an engrossing and massive story told from the view points of many different characters who interact sometimes in small ways, and sometimes in larger ones. Instead of being about drugs (illegal ones in Traffic's case) it is about the oil industry. Every actor is fantastic including Matt Damon, who is often times hit (Talented Mr. Ripley) or miss (nearly everything else). It is better then every one of the best picture nominees. But then so are the other two on my list, so on to number...

2. Walk the Line - I have to admit, I wasn't sure going in about Reese Witherspoon, but damn, she was really, really good. And I can't say enough about Joaquin Phoenix, he was unbelievable. After seeing this film last Thanksgiving with my best friend, I walked out saying, "We've just seen the movie that will win Best Picture." I was sure of it. Unbelievably it isn't even nominated. Ray was nominated, and compared to Walk the Line, Ray was awful. The music was good, and Jaime Foxx was outstanding, but the movie wasn't that great. Here, the music is amazing (I thought after first seeing the preview that they were actually using Johnny Cash's songs, I was blown away to find out it was Joaquin Phoenix. Face it, he nailed that signature Cash sound), the acting was as good as it gets, and the story was phenomenal. I truly don't understand how this film was ignored for best picture.

And now, let me preface by saying that it is entirely possible that no one will agree with me about my first place movie of the year, but considering I feel it is the best movie I've ever seen, it would be hard not to put it at number one for the year. (Are you listening Ebert, my number one movie of all time is also number one in the year in which it came out. It only makes sense.)

1. Serenity.

Okay, okay, some of you are saying, "I've never even heard of that movie" which means you don't think I'm crazy, you just figure it is some obscure independent film that only twelve people have seen despite it's brilliance. Well, you're partly right. Those of you who know what movie I'm talking about either A. think I've finally gone insane, or B. have seen the television show Firefly, been broken hearted by the way it was treated by FOX, heard Joss Whedon (yes the Buffy and Angel Joss Whedon) was going to be making a feature film continuing the story line of the television show, proceeded to try not to let your expectations get too high (because as we all know whenever your expectations are high for a film, or almost anything for that matter, you are inevitably let down), failed as your expectations shot through the roof with the news that every actor from the show would be reprising their roles, the talk of people who saw early cuts and said it was amazing, and just the fact that it was being based on the single greatest television show you had ever seen. Then, with hopes that could not be higher, you found yourself in the movie theatre for the midnight opening, and as the movie unfolded, found that your hopes and expectations were not only met, they were exceeded. Not only exceeded, but embarrassed. It was far better then you could have even dreamed. If you're in camp B (and I'm actually not the only one, but there are few of us out here) you can understand why I say this is the best movie I've ever seen. For those in camp A (who probably now include all those who previously didn't know what Serenity was), let me say (in addition to that absurdly long sentence above) I had Star Wars prequel sized expectations for this film and they weren't high enough. That, in my book, is unbelievable. Due to that, I have to say it is the best movie I've ever seen and therefore the best film of 2005.

Top Ten From 2006

Funny, challenging, disgusting: this movie can be described in many different ways. Ultimately, I'm most impressed with Sacha Baron Cohen's ability to disappear so completely within the character that you forget he's just an actor. I also applaud him for showing us the uglier sides of our selves, but also for giving us a good laugh at the same time. And while Clerks II had its tell your friends moments, Borat was full of them from beginning to end. I know, because I was at a party the day after I saw it, and along with some others who had seen it, we ended up retelling pretty much the entire film while laughing hysterically. And if you want a gross don't know whether to laugh or puke moment, naked wrestling is for you.


After I saw it, I couldn't stop analyzing it. Like the Illusionist, it was a good story on a great subject (magic) with amazing acting (come on who doesn't want to see Wolverine vs. Batman?) but it also had one of the most talented young directors working today, Christopher Nolan (Memento), and he did a fantastic job with this film. And unlike the Illusionist, there were plenty of things that had me scratching my head until the reveal. A film much like a magic trick, plus it had Scarlett Johanssen. Mmmm, Scarlett.


This was the funniest movie of the year, in my opinion. The fact that it came out so early is probably the only thing costing it Oscar recognition. The performances are top notch, even by Mrs. Cruise who makes you forget she was ever Joey. The script has just the right amount of heart to go with the huge helping of parody, satire, and sarcasm that it serves in no doubt unhealthy portions. It manages to have a happy ending without being cheesy or too syrupy (unlike the comedy Oscar is favoring) and totally stays true to itself at the end as a good satire should.


A must for anyone interested in the film industry. This could be one of the most important films in regard to the film industry ever. This is the movie that caused the MPAA to break there own strict no piracy rule and make an illegal copy. There were many revelations in this film that shocked and surprised me, and by no means am I ignorant to the industry. And it is as funny as it is unsettling. The subject matter was handled expertly. Documentaries can be difficult in pacing and in storytelling, but this one got it just right. As soon as I finished watching it, I started it again and watched it with the commentary.


Gloriously beautiful, and with a Wizard of Oz-esque storyline, this was a fabulous film. The only reason it's not much higher is the amount of violence. While I understand the need for the violence in this film, in part because of the time period of the story, and also to highlight the difference in the little girl's fantasy world and the real world, I also felt that at times it was more graphic then it needed to be. Overall though, the look of the film was exquisite, and the acting was top notch. I also loved the ending, you weren't sure what to believe, leaving it up to your judgement as to whether it was really a happy ending or not.


Finally, the way to make Keanu a good actor, draw over his scenes. Done in the style of Waking Life (also directed by Richard Linkletter) this movie was sort of made twice. They filmed it as live action, then with a computer animation program, actually animated it on top of the film itself, lending a surreal feel to the film. It's an animated film, and yet at the same time it seems like live action. This approach worked perfectly for this story, based very faithfully on the novel by Phillip K. Dick. A movie about drugs, family, and reality, it succeeds on all levels, even with Keanu. I've had it from Netflix since December. I really need to buy my own copy and send this one back.

4--UNITED 93

Originally, I had no desire to see this. I thought it was too soon, and imagined that the film would be preachy and overly patriotic. It is neither. It is filmed in documentary, you-are-there style, and runs in near to real time, adding to its effectiveness. The film not only focuses on what happened on the one hijacked flight that failed to make it to its destination, but also in the main control room for the FAA, the headquarters of the military's air defense, and the air traffic control towers of New York, Boston, and Cleveland, giving us a very real look at what was happening behind the scenes on that fateful morning. A very powerful movie that I liked in spite of myself.


Many are calling this a return to form for Martin Scorsese, but personally, I feel that The Aviator and Gangs of New York were both better films then this one. And by no means is this film in the class of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or Mean Streets, but it is still a really great movie. In almost anyone else's hands, this would have been strictly a genre picture, but under Scorsese's skilled direction, it is a masterpiece. There are so many nuanced and breathtaking performances in this film, I don't know how only Mark Walberg is nominated. The only thing that held the film back for me was the performance of Matt Damon. At times he was good, but at times I had a really hard time believing him. Mainly every time he had to show indignation or anger. I think he's much better when he's restrained such as in Talented Mr. Ripley. The rest of the films strengths, however, more then make up for Damon's negatives.


That's right, there's a tie. I've been trying for nearly a month to decide which film I liked better, but I believe both are utterly brilliant. It's rare that two films in one year would become among the greatest films I've ever seen, but that's the case here.


I list this one first since I previously blogged about it. My feelings for it have not changed. Feel free to go back and read what I wrote right after I saw it. It's rare for a movie to leave itself so open for interpretation, but it is awesome when it is done right, and The Fountain does it right. There is little doubt in my mind that Darren Aronofsky(Requiem For a Dream, Pi) is one of the finest directors of all time.


So is Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner form Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien). He tackles huge and troubling subjects with real and tangible characters even in unfamiliar places. In this film, he makes a possible future seem all too terrifyingly real in a documentary/noir/post-apocalyptic sci-fi film that stays with you long after the credits roll. The fact that Michael Caine isn't being mentioned for a best supporting actor borders on criminal as he steals every scene that he's in, managing to provide the film's funniest moments as well as it's saddest. Ultimately, it isn't too hard to imagine such a future as being possible, and it reminds us not to lose sight of or take for granted the hope that we do have.

Top Ten of 2007

We're obviously going to count them down, because it's oh so much more fun that way.

10. The Last Legion

Action films are usually predictable, poorly acted, cheesy, and without strong female characters.  This movie, on the other hand, is original, features superb performances, exciting, and has an outstanding female lead.  It is a new take on the Arthurian legend, and far better done then the Clive Owen stinker a few years back.  It's cast is outstanding, with Colin Firth, Mr. Darcy in the BBC Pride and Prejudice, Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, and the greatness that is Kevin McKidd (most recently the hero of NBC's Journeyman, and prior to that Lucius Vorenus on HBO's Rome).  He plays the bad guy in this film, which gives you an idea of how Rome might have looked if he'd have played Titus Pullo instead of Vorenus.  Aishwarya Rai plays a woman warrior from the Eastern Orthodox Empire who helps to protect the young last Caesar of Rome.  Not only is she smart, but she kicks some serious butt too.  No need for a man to save this young lady, although there are plenty of instances where the men need her to save them.  That alone would give it high marks, but it's actually a good film too.

9. The Mist

Frank Darabont gives us his third Stephen King adaptation (having previously written and directed The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile).  At first I thought this was an odd choice for him, considering the obvious theme that the first two films shared, prison, but after seeing this film, I realized that this story was a perfect choice for him as the same themes run through this movie as well.  Another film that returns the Horror genre to its roots, this movie does a great job of making an interesting film that at times also scares the crap out of you.  This film also has the greatest ending of any film in a long time.

8. The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson's latest proves that he is a master of storytelling.  Combining eccentric characters with dead on dialogue and crazy hi-jinks is always entertaining, and again succeeds in this picture, a story of three brothers struggling to find themselves and repair their relationship in the wake of their father's death.  Both funny and touching, this film is pure Wes Anderson.

7. Sicko

This is a must see movie.  Especially as we get ready to elect the next President of the United States, it is important to have an understanding of one of the most important issues, Health Care.  Michael Moore, as much as many people dislike him, does a good job in this film of avoiding the anti-conservative rhetoric that turn so many people off and sticking to the facts to give a bipartisan take on such an important issue.  It will astound you how backwards we really are on this issue, considering we are supposedly the one remaining "Super Power" nation left in the world.

6. Stardust

What a great film this is, a fantasy in the vein of The Princess Bride, and I think that it will gain a similar cult status.  Just like that movie, this one features many great cameos by great comedic actors as well as what very well may be the greatest performance that Robert DeNiro has ever given.  I won't spoil what that performance is exactly here, because it is much better if you see it first hand.  Funny fantasy films about the power of love come to rarely not to cherish them when they are done just right like this film was.

5. Sunshine

The best Sci-Fi/Horror film since Aliens, this movie from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting  and 28 Days Later) blew me away when I saw it.  It is beautifully shot with stunning visual effects and perfectly combines two genres to make a great film that will please fans of either one.  Plus it is nice to know that Chris Evans, so over the top as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four pics, can give a good dramatic performance.

4. There Will Be Blood

A challenging film where no one is portrayed in a good light, this movie, the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia and Boogie Nights) is a beautiful looking film that looks at the ugliness of power and greed.  It's a movie about oil, but organized religion doesn't escape unscathed either.  Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the greatest performances of all time as he takes a completely unlikable character that should be completely unwatchable and keeps the audience riveted.  The score from Jonny Greenwood from band Radiohead is probably the best score I have ever heard.  The music keeps you from realizing that the beginning of the film is without dialogue.  Unfortunately, many of the pieces heard in the film had previously been played by Greenwood in concerts keeping the score from meeting Oscar's original requirement, meaning the best score I've ever heard isn't eligible for a Best Score Oscar.

3. No Country for Old Men

Yet again, the highest an Oscar Best Picture Nominated film can get on my Top Ten is third (which should tell those of you keeping score at home that neither Atonement or Michael Clayton made the list).  This is a great film, no doubt, and a return to the genre that made the Coen Brothers in the first place.  This, like number 4 on the list, is a challenging film, that doesn't end, so much as finishes.  The performances are all top notch and Roger Deakins is proven, yet again, to be the best Cinematographer ever (more on that in a moment).  Javier Bardeem embodies psychotic killer Chigurh so completely, I'm going to be scared if I ever meet him (and will probably piss myself if he asks me to call the flip of a coin.)  No question in my mind, his character is the scariest villain in the history of film (move over Hannibal Lector and Nosferatu, you have company.)  It is exciting that a challenging movie like this (as well as There Will Be Blood) is getting the attention that it is, hopefully more smart and challenging films will be made in the future.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This movie was very nearly number one, and if I hadn't made myself choose this year (as opposed to the tie from last year) it easily could have been.  This movie is even more amazing by the fact that it is only the second film ever from director Andrew Dominik (don't worry, I hadn't heard of him either).  The screenplay is brilliant, the acting is top notch, and the film is simply beautiful.  First of all, let us all thank the movie gods that despite the acting talent skipping Ben it lodged itself firmly in Casey.  He actually is the lead in this movie, but is nominated in as a Supporting Role.  Unfortunately for him, it doesn't matter.  If he were nominated in the lead he would have been up against Daniel Day-Lewis, and in the supporting he's going up against the scariest villain in the history of film as brought to us by Javier Bardeem.  If he gets a juicy role in 2008, however, he could be in line for a makeup Oscar similarly to Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman, as opposed to almost anything else he ever did), Russell Crowe (Gladiator instead of Inside Man), or Denzel Washington (Training Day as opposed to Malcolm X or Hurricane).  Brad Pitt was, as always, brilliant as well.  And the movie looks amazing due in no small part to Cinematography by none other then Roger Deakins.  The tone of the film is reminiscent of a Terrance Malik picture as the beautiful nature puts us in a place for the film to truly speak to us.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for..............

The Number One Movie of 2007 is...............

Can I get a drumroll please?

Okay, okay, enough dramatics.

1. Zodiac

Does anyone even remember that this movie came out this year?  Oscar seemed to have forgotten.  This was a powerful film, not about a serial killer, but about what obsession can do to us.  The need to solve this unsolvable case tears at the lives of everyone involved, ruining many of them as if they themselves were victims of the Zodiac killer.  David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game) takes on a challenging subject obsessively himself and rewards us with a powerful film.  He is definitely in the discussion of this generation's best director and this film is no exception to his deserving that status.  Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in the role of Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist who becomes obsessed with finding out who the killer is, nearly losing everything in his quest to answer the question.  Robert Downey Jr. continues his streak of playing to type as a man who could have it all if he didn't succumb to the siren call of drugs and alcohol mirroring his own life.  Hopefully he stays clean in real life so he continues to reward us with performances such as this.

Top Ten of 2008 

All right, let's get to it, counting down (as always), here we go...

10. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL directed by Nicholas Stoller

In a year of good comedies (Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers) the best in my opinion was also the first.  The characters are so well drawn as to seem like people you really know, and the story is deep enough (rare for a romantic comedy) that not only can you see the situation from both sides, but you genuinely think it might turn out differently then you expect.  And, it's hilarious.  Always a plus.  There are great performances all around, including a star making turn by Russell Brand as Aldous Snow.  I particularly love all of the supporting characters from around the hotel where the action takes place, I wish that every hotel I stayed at was staffed with these people.

9. MAN ON WIRE directed by James Marsh

I didn't know anything about this prior to seeing the movie, but in 1974 Philippe Petite, a tight rope walker and street performer from France, broke into the World Trade Center and strung a wire across them and walked in between them.  This is the fantastic story of why and how he pulled off what many refer to as "the artistic crime of the century".  The movie makes no mention of what ultimately happened to the towers, but it's never far from your mind as you watch the film, especially considering how easily Philippe and his team get into the towers, but overall I'm glad the film doesn't make an out loud acknowledgment of the fate awaiting the towers, because this way it is a much more fitting tribute to the famous buildings.

8. THE STRANGERS directed by Bryan Bertino

While last year had more traditional horror films then we'd seen recently, movies that used suspense to scare instead of pools of blood, none of them pulled it off exactly the way they used to.  This film, however, did.  In what is unquestionably the best horror film in at least 30 years, my old school friend Bertino (we went to Elementary, Middle, and High School together) does a tremendous job of scaring the crap out of you, which is the whole point.  Despite this being his first feature film to direct, he does a great job both with the action and with the actors.  Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler are both fantastic and the actors who play the masked invaders are chilling in their portrayal.  I love that there isn't any real reason why the attackers are there, killers with out conscience are far scarier then killers who have some apparent motive (hint, hint, makers of that terrible series Saw, and please don't waste our theater space with any more of them).

7. IRON MAN directed by Jon Favreau

Number two on my top ten comic book movie list, this film was outstanding in so many ways, far better then I was expecting it to be.  I'm worried about the future of the series as it is being rushed and I don't like all the stories about actors getting screwed around, but the first in the series will always be a classic.  Some say origin stories are the easiest to tell, but it still has to be done right, and it is even more important with a character that isn't as familiar to everyone.  Favreau got it exactly right in this film.  And the subtle updates to the character to make him fit so perfectly in this time and place were also a tribute to the filmmakers.  And, of course, there is the genius bit of casting putting Robert Downey Jr. in the suit.  He did an outstanding job and if the series does continue up from its high starting point, he'll be a large reason why.

6. BURN AFTER READING directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

A film that either people seem to love or people seem to hate, the latest from the Coen Brothers is about as far as one can get from their Oscar winning film No Country For Old Men, but it is very reminiscent of another Coen Brothers movie that when it came out was either loved or hated by the movie going public, The Big Lebowski.  In many ways, there are a lot of correlations between the two films.  They are statements about the time periods in which they take place.  In many ways, I consider this the after-Bush Big Lebowski.  Whereas Big Lebowski was a satire on the mystery noir, this is a satire on the spy film, complete with a Tony Scott like opening shot.  Both films feature the characteristic Coen type characters (read people who are nowhere near as smart as they think they are) and a ridiculous story that only works because of our characters.  While I don't think this film is as good as Lebowski (but then, what comedy is?), I do believe that as time goes on more and more people will fall into the love it category just like they did for the Dude.

5. W. directed by Oliver Stone

I have to say, this was not even close to the film that I was expecting.  Like a lot of people I have been very disappointed with the direction that this country has headed in over the last eight years and a lot of my blame for that has been directed towards the 43rd President of the United States.  And I know that Oliver Stone has been even more outspoken against Bush then I have, so I was expecting something different.  Because this film is not harsh or hateful towards George Bush.  In fact, it takes a very unbiased look at the man and his circumstances and in the end managed to make me feel sorry for him as opposed to hating him.  Pretty powerful filmmaking really and worth seeing no matter how you feel about George W. Bush.
4. THE DARK KNIGHT directed by Christopher Nolan

There isn't that much more I can say about this film that hasn't been said already by many people, including myself when I named it the best comic book movie of all time.  This is a film that deserved consideration for Best Picture (especially considering the fact that a couple of the actual nominees this year weren't very good, more on that in my Oscar Post next week) and despite that it will win multiple Oscars (it is up for 8) I feel like it has definitely been cheated.  Rarely is a film so good that it completely transcends the genre that it's in, but this film is in that elite company.  And last year when talking about the number 3 movie I wrote that Javier Bardem was the scariest villain in the history of film topping even Hannibal Lector and that is why he deserved the Oscar.  Well, forget about the fact that Heath Ledger died, I would be making the same argument if he were still alive, because his portrayal of the Joker made me wonder why I ever thought Lector or Chigurh was frightening.

3. WALL-E directed by Andrew Stanton

A movie that I absolutely loved as you can tell from my review, and another film cheated because of it's genre.  There is no question in my mind that this movie deserved a best picture nod, but considering that it has it's own category (Best Animated Feature) the Oscars feel that it isn't necessary to acknowledge it where it belongs to be acknowledged.  The problem is, the best animated feature doesn't always win the Best Animated Feature Oscar.  This is a spot where upsets happen far too often.  And if you view the Best Animated Feature as a synonym for Kid's Movie, well then Kung Fu Panda will win, not WALL-E because Kung Fu Panda is a far better movie for kids.  WALL-E on the other hand isn't really a "Kid's Movie".  It is far more then that, and probably has a lot more in common with a classic such as 2001 then a kid's movie like Happy Feet.  If it were up to me, both TDK and WALL-E would have gotten Best Picture Nominations.

2. MILK directed by Gus Van Sant

What an amazing movie this was, and the timing literally couldn't have been better as it's release coincided with the heartbreaking results of Prop 8 in California along with many similar propositions throughout the United States.  Another movie, like Man On Wire, that had historical importance of which I was largely unaware.  This film is so brilliantly acted by the likes of Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin that everyone completely sinks into their characters.  (On a side note, in my mind Josh Brolin is one of the best actors of this generation as he completely disappears into all of the very different characters he's played over the last year, the disturbed Dan White here, Llewelyn Moss in No Country For Old Men, and the best portrayal of George W. Bush anywhere, not even close to just being a caricature).  As good as Sean Penn is and has been, I think this might be his best acting job ever.  A very powerful and important film.

1. THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON directed by David Fincher

For the second straight year a David Fincher movie tops my Top Ten and this time with a movie very unlike anything that he has done before.  For a slightly more detailed look at my thoughts about this movie you can look at my review, but I wanted to add that one of the reasons I find this film so fascinating is that is so easily could have been bogged down by excess sentimentality (probably the reason why some people don't like Forrest Gump), but it wasn't at all.  There is no cheat to this movie, the heartstrings aren't pulled by tricks simply to pull the heartstrings.  Fincher has just the right amount of detachment to deliver the movie in a completely original way unlike the other favorite to win Best Picture which uses every trick imaginable hoping to force sentimentality on you (more on that in my Oscar Post next week as well).  I sincerely hope that the Oscars do the right thing and reward this magical movie.

The Top Ten (Twenty) Films of 2009

Of course, this year, the Oscars themselves made a Top Ten list, as this year, there were 10 Best Picture nominees instead of the usual five (Thank you Batman).

Since the Oscars usually only name five best picture nominees, and therefore my list doubles that amount, this year I might go ahead and give you a Top Twenty.

If they can double their faves, I suppose that I can also.

If I wrote a review for the film, it is linked through the title!

So, here you go...


20.  The Hurt Locker

This movie won best picture, but it finds itself on my list at number 20.

Sure, I enjoyed it, and Jeremy Renner is masterful, but I don't really think it was worthy of being named Best Picture, and probably didn't deserve to be nominated.  For the most part, the movie is amazing, and everything you would want out of a best picture winner, but there is an entire section of the film that bothers me.  Renner's character goes off of the base to avenge the death of a local kid he believes that he knew.  It turns the film into something different, something that this movie wasn't really about; it almost completely derails the feel that the film had spent so long building up.  I suppose it was meant to give you a little more insight into Renner's character, but it actually made me like him less.  Everything else he does in the film makes me sympathize with him in the way that the movie wanted me too, but that portion did just the opposite.  It didn't fit, and moved this film all the way down to number 20 on my list.

So, hopefully that'll teach 'em.

19. District 9

Another movie that I really did enjoy, but that didn't quite win me totally over as it wasn't quite sure what type of film that it wanted to be.

It starts out as a very smart sci-fi film that has some interesting things to say on how we treat each other, and it becomes an exciting shoot-em-up action flick.  The mock-umentary feel at the beginning of the film and the more basic action flick in the second half don't really fit together in my opinion, and detracts from what is otherwise a very good film.  Seeing as this was the first film from the director, perhaps some of the pacing issues and uneven feel of the film can be forgiven.  However, since there is another first time director on this very list much, much higher, we can't cut Mr.Blomkamp too much slack.  Instead, he will have to be satisfied with number 19 on my Top 20.

18. The Blind Side

Without question a great feel good story.  Even the freaking previews get me choked up.  As did the first time that I heard Michael Oher's story as he was being drafted. The film does a great job telling that story, and as much as I am not a huge fan of Sandra Bullock, she is fantastic as the woman who went out of her way for a young man who really needed someone to believe in him.

17. The Hangover

An outstanding comedy that doesn't pull any punches.  Bradley Cooper is amazing, but then, I've known that from way back.  I loved him as Will Tippen on Alias.  Zach Galifianakis steals every scene that he is in.  This film is highly quotable, which is part of what makes a great comedy.  You can't help but laugh again when you are talking with your friends about it long after the movie has ended.

16. (500) Days of Summer

I've had a bit of a thing for Zooey Deschanel for quite some time.  She really blew me away in the recent Sci-Fi channel miniseries Tin-Man, an update of The Wizard of Oz.  So it is no surprise that she is so easy to fall in love with in this movie.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as well in this unconventional love story told out of order after it has already ended.

15. Julie & Julia

Any movie that is about a person who found fame blogging already has a head start in winning me over.  The strange story of a woman who cooked her way through Julia Child's cookbook coupled with the story of how the cookbook came to be published is a fun and intriguing way to intertwine two stories that aren't as unconnected as they might at first seem.  Amy Adams is clearly an actress to keep an eye on as she continues to perform very well in interesting roles, and, of course, Meryl Streep is, as always, amazing.

14. Fantastic Mr. Fox

I might not have thought to combine the story telling visuals of Wes Anderson with the dark yet whimsical tales of children's author Roald Dahl, but after seeing this movie, let me assure you, they fit together perfectly.  The film is without question a Wes Anderson film, and as true to his sensibilities as Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, but it is also quite true to Roald Dahl, and as true to his sensibilities as any reading you have ever done of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It is a perfect marriage.  Also the music is unbelievable.  It is worth seeing the movie for the soundtrack alone!

13. Fanboys

There was actually quite a while where I thought that I might have to put this movie first on any best of list that I did.  I absolutely loved it and felt that it was made with me in mind.  It is a story that is unabashed in its love for Star Wars, uncompromising in its comedy, and unashamedly emotional as well.  I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say that if you grew up loving the original Star Wars films, you will love this movie too.

12. A Serious Man

A bit different from the usual Coen Brother fare (if you can call anything that these eclectic filmmakers do usual).  A Serious Man is the Coen Brothers modern day take on the book of Job and the theology contained therein.  This is not a happy movie, but then, life itself is often not so happy go lucky either, and any contemplation on the injustices of being unfairly targeted to the point to where it seems even God must be against you despite your assurances that you have always been a faithful (or serious in Jewish parlance) man is worth digesting.  When it is contemplated by Joel and Ethan Coen, you quite simply can't go wrong.

11.  Funny People

Another film that spent quite a lot of time in my top spot, Judd Apatow abandoned his usual comedy for a dramatic piece about life and the lengths we go to to avoid facing its realities.  I think that had this film been marketed for the drama that it was instead of the comedic piece that it was advertised as, it would have gotten some series Oscar buzz.  Adam Sandler gives what I believe is his absolutely best performance.  Seth Rogen also impressed me greatly with his performance.  It is a sign of what a great year 2009 has been for film that a movie that spent a long time as my number one movie of the year ends it at number 11.

10. Zombieland

Stylistically, this movie is perfect.  Told from the perspective of the least likely Zombie apocalypse survivor ever, Zombieland succeeds as a hilarious comedy as well as a fun zombie romp (much like Shawn of the Dead, I wonder what it is that makes Zombie movies work so well in satirical films?).  Woody Harrelson reminds me why I like him so much, as he steals every second of the movie that he is in.  Abigail Breslin proves that she will have a career beyond just being that cute little girl from Little Miss Sunshine, and Emma Stone joins Amy Adams as actresses to keep a serious eye on.  Both character driven and zombie-filled, Zombieland was way better than it probably had any right to be.  It also has the best comedic cameo of all time.

9. Sherlock Holmes

Though Guy Ritchie has been slacking some from the promise that he showed early with Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, he does an excellent job bringing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's incredible creation to life on the big screen.  The story feels like a Sherlock Holmes story, Robert Downey Jr. continues his unbelievable hot streak of bringing iconic characters to life, and Ritchie 's somewhat frenetic pace is kept enough in check to fit the film perfectly.  I, for one, can't wait for the next installment from Baker's Street.

8. Up

A movie that I have seen numerous times, and that I love more each and every time that I watch it.  The almost silent-film-esque opening is worth the price of admission by itself.  A story that is so incredibly emotional and yet at the same time filled with such a child-like sense of wonder, it is amazing to me sometimes when most movies are just cookie cutter retellings of old stories that something so original can still be made.  It helps when you are PIXAR and have never made a bad movie.  You get a little bit more leeway to be original when you can't do any wrong.  That trend certainly didn't stop here.

7. Star Trek

A movie that filled me with trepidation all the way up until the moment that I saw it.  Other than a few moments that were a little more cheesy than I would have liked (such as Kirk's puffed up hands), this movie was completely true to Star Trek.  It doesn't lesson my desire for a new Star Trek series on TV following the TNG, DS9, Voyager timeline, but I also can't wait for the next film in this universe with this cast.  I'm sold and ready to Boldly Go once again.

6. Watchmen

While many considered the graphic novel to be unfilmable, Zach Snyder actually did an amazing job in capturing everything that the comic was about in a way that applies to our more modern sensibilities and in relation to the current craze in making comic book movies.  It so easily could have gone wrong in so many ways, and yet I have a love for the film that might outstrip the love that I have for the graphic novel on which it was based.  Rarely can you even begin to think that the movie is better than the book, but this film certainly has a  case to make, although you can't take away anything from the book since each and every scene is lovingly recreated from the template that is Alan Moore's masterpiece.

5. Coraline

Each year, I notice some trend in the really great movies of the year, and this year it might have to be adaptations.  Literary works are notoriously hard to translate well to the screen, and yet so many have been successfully made this year.  Dahl's work is put perfectly to screen by Wes Anderson, Doyle's troubled genius gets a fantastic reboot thanks to Downey and Ritchie, Alan Moore's "unfilmable" book becomes a breathtaking movie thanks to Zach Snyder, and now, Neil Gaiman's work is once again brought to spectacular life (the last time was two years ago with the very underrated Stardust), this time by Henry Selick and the stop motion animation that he perfected with A Nightmare Before Christmas.  Coraline is a hauntingly beautiful story that is full of thrills, chills, and just the right amount of emotion.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Continuing the amazing adaptation theme, a short picture book is an unlikely source to turn into a fully engaging feature film, and yet Spike Jonze (director of Being John Malcovich) and Dave Eggers (best known for his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) do just that with this film.  The performances are unbelievable, the Wild Things are brought to perfect life, and the work of Max Records as Max is unbelievable.  It is literally one of the best acting performances that I've ever seen.  The movie itself is not what I would call a kid's movie, but rather a movie that is exactly about what it is to be a kid, and that can be a scary thing.  But also hauntingly beautiful when it is survived.

3. The Road

I haven't read the Cormac McCarthy novel that the movie is based on, but the movie blew me away.  Incredible cinematography that really captures the mood right off the bat, performances that are so very raw and intense, and a story that cuts right to the bone, this movie hits on every cylinder.  It certainly isn't a "feel good" film, but it definitely does a perfect job in capturing the love between a father and a son, and giving a realistic portrayal to a world that has "moved on" as Stephen King might say.

2. Moon

Like District 9, this is a sci-fi feature film from a first time director, yet Duncan Jones doesn't make any mistakes in his tale about loneliness and humanity.  Set on a base on the moon in the near future manned for three months by one individual and a robotic assistant, the film doesn't get old or tiresome at all, and instead is perfectly paced and completely gripping.  This is in large part due to the amazing skill of Sam Rockwell as Sam, the laborer finishing up his stay at the moon base.  His performance is without question the finest of the year, and one of the best acting jobs I've ever seen.  Duncan Jones's superb film also places him instantly in amongst the young directors whose films I will see immediately upon release, joining Alfonso Cuaron, David Fincher, Darron Aronofsky, and Christopher Nolan.

And the number one film....

1. Avatar

James Cameron's incredibly imaginative and immersive world changed film forever.  It proves that with modern cinema is now capable of anything.  While some are critical of the somewhat unoriginal story, the imagination of everything else in the film makes up for any stale story elements.  And personally I didn't see the story as stale, I saw the story as a classic tale that added to the realism of what easily could have been an unrealistic world but instead thanks to the imagination and technology of James Cameron was utterly believable and that made Pandora a place that I almost felt like I could step through the screen to join.  Movies will never be the same again, and that is what cinema is all about.

Top Ten of 2010

All year long I have been upset at the lack of good films this year.

My joke for much of the year was that the year in movies was so poor that Hot Tub Time Machine had a legitimate shot to make my Top Ten.  (Thankfully, it didn't turn out that poorly, although I did enjoy the movie, it shouldn't ever be in a year ending Top Ten.)

Last year, I did a Top Twenty (any of the films in it, incidentally, probably would have made the Top Ten this year) due to the fact that the Oscars had upped their nominations to ten.

I won't be doing a Top Twenty this year.

There also won't be any honorable mentions.

On to the list...

10. The American

George Clooney is fantastic in this slower paced action/thriller that is far more character driven then the typical spy/assassin film.  It is beautifully shot and keeps your attention despite the slower pace.  Thanks to the interesting story, the fantastic acting, and the beautiful cinematography, this is one of the better films of the genre in quite some time.  It reminded me of another movie to make one of my Top Tens, The Constant Gardner.

9. Shutter Island

Leonardo DiCaprio has become one of our generations most fantastic actors, due in large part to his relationship with one of the greatest directors of all time, Martin Scorsese.  In any other filmmaker's hands, this might have been a convoluted mess, but Scorsese makes it a masterpiece.  Twists and turns that are completely character and story driven rather than just for the sake of twists and turns makes this a film that stays with you long after it is over.

8. Toy Story 3

Each successive Toy Story film has been better than the ones that came before, and this is no exception.  Chronicling the painful yet inevitable end of the toy and kid relationship, while keeping the door open for future instalments, Toy Story 3, like the two films that preceded it, mixes laughter, tears, joy, sadness, and excitement in equal parts.  A beautiful and moving film, but what else can you expect from PIXAR?

7. 127 Hours

Driven largely by the unbelievable performance of the star (and this year's Oscar co-host) James Franco, 127 Hours manages to captivate despite the close quarters of most of the films setting and the fact that it focuses on only one character.  It is a harrowing experience and the film puts the viewer directly into that experience.  This is a powerful movie, and proof that James Franco is an undeniable talent.

6. The King's Speech

While the film is overly emotionally manipulative, and it often feels more like a stage play than a film in terms of camera movement, it is still a moving story and an overall good film.  Like 127 Hours, the film is definitely strengthen by the performances, and it will probably be rewarded by Oscars for Firth and Bonham Carter.

5. Exit Through the Gift Shop

One of the most original films I have ever seen, and by far the best documentary this year, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a movie that defies explanation.  When you find someone else who has seen it, however, I guarantee that you will have tons of lively discussion about the film. 

4. Social Network

A movie that by all rights should have been terrible was handled by the exact right creative team.  Ultimately, this is a story of the times in which we live, and it is a story that desperately needed to be told.  I am glad that it was Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher who told it.

3. Black Swan

One of the most disturbing films of all time, definitely on a level with the very disturbing Requiem For a Dream (also directed by Aronofsky).  Natalie Portman is unbelievable, and Mila Kunis continues to surprise me and shed the image of Jackie from That 70's Show.  Almost a horror film at times, the movie manages to make you live with obsession and desire while also showing the dangers of wanting something too much.

2. Inception

Christopher Nolan continues to make unbelievable films.  While I'm not entirely sure that he is the right fit for producing and writing the new Superman film, I can't deny that his films are always fantastic.  Again, DiCaprio performs flawlessly as the troubled protagonist, and the rest of the cast is terrific as well.  The whole movie works on every level, as this is a movie that you have to watch more than once.

And the number one movie (and the "Should Win" for Best Picture from my Preview and Prediction Post) is...

1. True Grit

Rarely are remakes far and away better than the original, but rarely are remakes handled by Joel and Ethan Coen.  Jeff Bridges continues his unbelievable run, and Hailee Steinfeld steals every second of the film (making it quite a crime that she is nominated as a supporting actress instead of as a lead actress).  While I am not a huge Matt Damon fan, he is incredible in this movie.  I always used to say that Matt Damon was only good in The Talented Mr. Ripley, now I have to add True Grit to that list.  Roger Deakins does an amazing job as always, as he is, in my opinion, the best cinematographer working today.  The script is perfect, and the Coen brothers' direction is impeccable.  Not only is this the best film of the year, but it also is among the best films of the entirety of the last decade.  While 2010 was a down year, this film certainly keeps it from being a total disappointment.  I also might put this as the best Coen brothers' movie ever, and that is certainly saying something.

Top 10 of 2011



What a great film.  Very different from most movies, it moves very slowly and through a lot of stories from a lot of different perspectives, but it never loses momentum or the audiences attention.

Then there is the fact that the movie just gets to you.  If you didn't have at least a little apprehension about germs after seeing this film I think you might actually be a cylon.

My mother refused to touch the sides of the escalator on the way out of the theater and then paused at the door to the street finally decided to use her elbow to open it.  I'm sure that she wasn't the only one with that reaction, and if a film can get you to react that strongly after seeing it, it is doing its job.

Source Code

In my review, I called Source Code "one of the best time travel movies of all time," and it really is.  Unlike a lot of time travel movies, it sets up the rules and follows them, rather than breaking them in order to provide a satisfactory ending (looking at you Deja Vu).

Duncan Jones (who also wrote and directed the incredible Moon) proves himself to be a director to keep a close eye on.  If the end of the year hadn't been filled with some truly fantastic films, this would have unquestionably made the top ten.


10. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Ostensibly a film about the attack on 9/11, this is really a film about a young boy with Asperger's who struggles to find meaning after his father (Tom Hanks) dies in the World Trade Center.  His father sent him on elaborate quests in order to get him to interact with others and overcome the social awkwardness that went with his disease.  A chance discovery seems that there might be one more mystery that will allow him to continue to feel the presence of his now absent father.

It walks the fine line of sappy sentimentality that can bring a film down, avoiding the possibility of becoming too preachy or "Hallmark movie of the week" and instead provides a powerful look into one family's struggle with the events of a tragic morning.

9. Ides of March

A friend of mine actually works on political campaigns for a living, so immediately upon seeing this, I thought of him.  He said it was a pretty accurate take on what can take place on the campaign trail.  It is also a very good and dramatic film.  It keeps you intrigued throughout, and the acting is top notch.  While the attention is going to The Descendents and Drive, I thought that George Clooney's and Ryan Gosling's performances were far better in this film.

8. Tree of Life

A movie about love, life, tragedy, and above all else the relationship of a father and a son.  It isn't a typical film told in a typical style, but it works and it is beyond beautiful.  It switches between a cosmic look at life and an extremely personal take on a boy who is entirely too much like his father, both of them struggling to find their place amidst everything else.  If you go in with an open mind, I find it hard to think that you won't walk away touched.  At the very least, the film will make you think.  And that in itself is entirely too rare these days.

7. The Artist

This is another of the films this year that evokes films of the past.  It is almost entirely silent, and yet even without spoken dialogue there is a fantastic story that will make you laugh and cry.  Carried almost solely by the performances of the actors (and one cute dog) you forget that you are watching a silent, black and white film.  It is at once a chronicle of the changing of the guard in film history, a love story, and a tale of despair with the hope of redemption.  Powerful movie making and certainly not easy to pull off successfully in a time where Michael Bay explosions are the norm rather than strong character and storytelling (although arguably, the dialogue in this film where there hardly is any rivals the dialogue in any Michael Bay film).

6. The Muppets

While not exactly evoking the past in film, it certainly qualifies as nostalgia.  Anyone who grew up watching either The Muppet Show or the subsequent films will find themselves falling in love with the Muppets all over again.  The fact that this isn't sweeping all kinds of awards is criminal.  Thankfully, "Man or Muppet" got nominated for Best Song, but there is a rumor that the Muppets won't be able to perform the song at the Oscars!  I really hope cooler heads prevail and the Muppets get at least that recognition since they deserve so much more.  Immediately after seeing this at the midnight showing, I bought the soundtrack, and I have been listening to it nearly non-stop since (four months later!).  I will be buying this film the second I can and will watch it over and over again, because the world is a better place (and life is a happy song) when the Muppets are around.

5. The Help
While I understand the trouble some people have with this film, noting the fact that the black women had to be saved by a white woman.  But it also does a good job of capturing the reality of this time.  Plus the acting was fantastic and very likely will end up with wins in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories.

4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I loved the book series, and while there are some minor changes, this is a very faithful adaptation.  Of course, if you are familiar with the books, that means that there are some difficult moments in this film.  However, David Fincher handles the difficult material expertly and delivers a very powerful film that is as exciting and mysterious as the source material on which he based the film.  Honestly, my main problem with the Oscars this year is that this movie wasn't nominated for Best Picture.  And while Rooney Mara did get a very deserved nomination, she isn't going to win.  In my opinion, she definitely should as her portrayal of the title character was beyond perfect, and it certainly was not an easy role to play.

3. War Horse
My top three films this year were so close that I almost wussed out and had a three way tie for number one, but I fought through that desire and ultimately put an order to them.  While some of the films this year were obviously homages to film (including a film still to go on my list), I think that this movie fits in, in a way, with those.  It isn't about film, but it certainly hearkens back to films from the past.  It reminds me of a John Ford epic (as an aside, it is interesting that Spielberg made a film meant to evoke the work of another filmmaker the same year that JJ Abrams made a film meant to evoke the work of Spielberg).  It was a positive and powerful film that had more than its share of sentimentality, but as much as forced sentimentality generally annoys me, under the watchful hand of Spielberg it doesn't bother me at all.

2. Hugo
The final film on the list that is an homage to film, Scorsese made a movie about the very beginning of the film industry that is also a mysterious and adventurous tale about a young boy and the search  for a final message from his father.  This, along with Avatar, shows the true potential of digital film and the power of 3D done right.  Scorsese is a master of the medium of film and in this movie he celebrates its past while showing off the possibilities of its future.

and my choice for the Number One Movie of 2011 is....

1. Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen has been making movies for a long time, but it has been quite some time since he has made a film quite this good.  There are quite a few films on this list that can be called nostalgic, and this is yet another one.  Although the history that this film invokes predates movies.  Instead it is nostalgic about the art of storytelling in a more general sense, but it is wholly nostalgic and wholly original just the same.  To close out my top ten, I'll quote from my review after I saw the film this summer...

"If you categorize it as romantic comedy (and I'm not really sure that is the classification I would use, I would rather refuse to try to box it in to any one genre) then it is unquestionably the best romantic comedy I have ever seen."

And Finally, My Top Ten of 2012










And my number one movie of 2012...



So there you have it.

My Top Films of the last 8 years on this very blog!

Until Next Time, check this space tomorrow for the Top Ten Films of 2013!

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